Iceland is the perfect destination for a seasoned traveler, a first-time solo traveler or an adventurous family looking for a road trip around the island. With friendly locals, stunning scenery, tons of adventure, and a vibrant tourist scene, you should experience Iceland at least once in your life. I’ve been back twice now and each trip brings something new.
Tips for your first trip to Iceland!
- Icelanders tend to pay for everything using credit or debit cards so you don’t need to worry about carrying cash on you.
- If you’re planning to explore the whole island, I highly recommend hiring a campervan in Iceland! You’ll save money on accommodation, and it’s the best way to explore the country’s famous Ring Road!
- It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting Iceland in the spring, summer, autumn or winter, the island’s weather is always unpredictable. Good boots and thermal leggings were lifesavers for me on both my trips to Iceland.
- Iceland is one of the most expensive destinations in Europe. If you’re planning a trip on a shoe-string, you’re going to end up spending a lot more on basics like food, gas, and accommodation.
- While the main language in Iceland is Icelandic, pretty much everyone speaks English. You’ll be able to find English speakers in the touristy areas.
To help you out, here is a list of the top places to visit in Iceland that you can consider for your next trip: –
- Area: 7,900 km²
- Terminus: Outlet glaciers
Vatnajökull is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland, and the second largest in Europe after the island’s ice cap. Severny by Novaya Zemlya. It is in the south-east of the island, covering about 8% of the country. Vatnajökull is approximately 8,100 square kilometers (3,127 square miles); although it is declining rapidly due to climate change, its recession is not as advanced as on other glaciers, such as Langjökull and Mýrdalsjökull. In some areas, it is a mile deep (over three thousand feet) and its average thickness is about half that. Vatnajökull also holds Iceland’s highest peak under its ice; Hvannadalshnjúkur is 2,200 meters high (7,218 feet). It also hides some of the country’s most active volcanoes, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull, and Bárðarbunga. Volcanic activity in the area has occurred intermittently over the centuries, and many geologists believe several eruptions are overdue. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the next half century. The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre (three feet) of its thickness annually over the past 15 years.
- Best time to visit: Summer is the best time to visit Landmannalaugar.
Landmannalaugar is a geothermal oasis found in the remote tundra of the interior of Iceland, in the Icelandic Highlands. It’s located in the Southern Highlands within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, a name that means the “Mountain’s Back”. From Reykjavík, it is about 3-hour drive (112 mi. / 180 km) to Landmannalaugar, even though it’s always good to count on having quite a few stops along the way as the landscape is too beautiful to drive past without stopping. Visiting Landmannalaugar can fit in a day trip. The most remarkable natural attraction is the unique landscape itself. The mountains are made of rhyolite while the other geological elements – such as sulfur, iron, and moss – have painted the slopes in various shades of brown, yellow, pink, red, and blue. The most impressive lava field, Laugahraun, and the neighboring fields of Hrafntinnuhraun and Namshraun were created between 872 and 1480 CE. Colorful mountains surround these lava fields that stretch across the valleys. From the edge of the Laugahraun lava field, several hot water streams spring up and become mixed with some cold water sources to create a warm river.
- Length: 1.5 km
- Area: 18 km²
Jökulsárlón is a lake filled with meltwater from an outlet glacier. In this case, it is Breiðamerkurjökull, a tongue of Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. However, it is distinguished by the fact that it also fills with icebergs protruding from the glacier, some of which overlook several floors. Jökulsárlón has not existed since the settlement of Iceland; it did not form until around 1935. This was due to the rapid rise in temperatures in the country from the beginning of the 20th century; since 1920 Breiðamerkurjökull has shrunk at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has started to fill its space. Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins. In summer, it is a nesting site for arctic terns; stay well away from their nesting area, as these birds are notorious for the ferocity with which they protect their eggs, stabbing the heads of those they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the shores of the lake in this season. Seals can be reliably spotted here all year round, swimming among or hanging out on icebergs. Jökulsárlón offers them a haven of peace to rest and socialize, especially since the waters of southeast Iceland are famous for their population of killer whales.
- Area: 138 km²
- Weather: -2 °C, Wind S at 14 km/h, 77% Humidity
Akureyri “Iceland’s second largest city” is something of a misdemeanour seemings as the population is only around 19,000 people. This would make the city more like a town if it were anywhere else in the world, but given that we’re in Iceland, the classification fits. Akureyri is the little big city of Iceland. It is large enough to offer a rich selection of entertainment, art and culture, yet small enough to be very personal and close to nature. It‘s easy to be fascinated by Akureyri with it‘s with brightly painted wooden houses, cosy bars and steep streets leading down from the hills into the friendly city centre. You can easily explore all the major spots in town on foot. Here you‘ll find a wide range of activities and interesting places e.g. notable museums, the world’s most northerly botanic garden, one of Iceland’s most popular swimming facilities, 18-hole golf course, the best skiing area in the country and great hiking trails. Best of all, use of the city buses is completely free of charge. Akureyri is also a great base camp for many of Iceland’s most beautiful natural wonders, such as waterfalls, volcanic areas and canyons, as well as numerous exciting activities, such as rafting, hiking, caving, whale watching and horseback riding.
- Weather: 0 °C, Wind SW at 13 km/h, 74% Humidity
- Population: 15,930 (2018)
Keflavik is a small town on Reykjanes, a volcanic peninsula in South Iceland. Keflavik is also home to Keflavik International Airport, the airport where most fly into when they come to Iceland. Keflavík’s climate is subarctic (Dfc) with cool summers and moderately cold winters. There is no really dry month, but June is the month with the least amount of precipitation. High temperatures in winter are on average above freezing and high temperatures in summer are cool to mild. The hottest month on average is July with an average temperature of 13 ° C (55 ° F) and the coldest is January with an average temperature of 2 ° C (36 ° F).